Three key insights – Kevin Pho

By Paul Grant

This website was created to focus on healthcare professional digital opinion leaders (HCPDOLs) and the way their use of social media is transforming health care. During early 2015 we celebrated ten individuals “…advancing the cause of social media in clinical practice.” Following the interest in this story, it seemed valuable to invite a few brief thoughts from each of these healthcare professional mentors, to help others navigate the world of social media in clinical practice.

In the first of our ‘Three key insights‘ series, we speak with Kevin Pho. Thank you Kevin for your kind contribution here.

Kevin Pho, MD is a board-certified internal medicine physician and co-author of Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. He is founder and editor of KevinMD.com.

How and when did you begin to realise that social media might be valuable in your professional life?

Back in 2004, Merck recalled their drug Vioxx.  This was a chaotic time, as I had many patients on the drug.  I wrote a blog post on this, offering some suggestions that patients can ask their own doctors about.  A few days later, I walked into the exam room, and the first thing that patient said to me was, “I read your blog post this morning.  I’m comforted by what you had to say, and now I realize I have other options for Vioxx.”  And I was stunned.  It was the first time I realized that what I wrote online could resonate beyond the exam room, and reach significantly more patients.

As more patients Google their symptoms and diagnoses, they have to realize that there’s a lot of bad information on the Web.  With social media, physicians have a powerful tool to both curate and create reliable health information online.

Can you tell of a personal ‘valuable lesson learned’ about social media that you would like medical peers and students to be aware of?

Patients aren’t just going online to research their conditions; they also go online to look up their doctor as well.  Most physicians aren’t aware, or don’t care about, their online presence.  They should.  That’s because they already have information written about them online.  Dozens of doctor rating sites have profile pages of every physician in the U.S.  Most of them allow patients to rate doctors online.

Rather than being defined by these sites, it’s much better to be proactive.  Social media is a powerful way to do so.  By creating profiles on sites like LinkedIn or Doximity, or creating a blog or a YouTube channel, doctors can stake out their place on the Web and define themselves first, before anyone else does.

What do you see (or hope to see) in the future of healthcare engagement and social technologies?

I would like to see social media concepts applied to the formal medical record.  For instance, there is a burgeoning movement afoot where patients can contribute to their medical record, Wikipedia-style.  I think that’s a great idea.  Who better to describe what a patient is feeling like than the patient himself?

Health care communication has to evolve from a unilateral doctor-patient encounter to one that is more of a partnership: two-way communication.  Using social media concepts in health IT is a fantastic way to facilitate that evolution.

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Paul Grant